Iliana Rivera poses next to John Jewell’s sculpture in front of Key Center library. Photo: Richard Miller, KP News

 It’s official. The Board of Trustees of the Pierce County Library System passed a resolution July 11 asking Pierce County voters to restore its full levy funding on the Nov. 6, 2018 ballot. The last time the library board of trustees requested a lid lift levy was in 2006, a measure approved by Pierce County voters. 

“The library offers so much more today than it did when we were growing up” said Corrine Weatherly, Supervising Branch Librarian at the Key Center Library.  There are 1.5 million books, e-books, movies and other materials; staff to support growth and learning with thousands of classes and events; computers, Wi-Fi and technology offerings; in addition to community services such as public meeting rooms, community events and forums. 

The costs to operate and maintain library services are increasing at a faster and higher rate than revenues, according to Pierce County Library System (PCLS). Since 2006 the population in the library’s service area has grown by 16 percent; at the same time the number of people with PCLS library cards grew by 63 percent. 

The nationally acclaimed PCLS serves 602,000 people throughout Pierce County with 20 libraries and online service. The system is the fourth largest in the state and is funded primarily through property taxes. It also provides services and programs directly to people in adult care facilities or who are homebound in addition to children in childcare centers and schools. 

Following extensive public outreach the PCLS Community Advisory Committee, analyzed the systems funding and recommended that the board ask voters to restore the PCLS funding to its 50 cents for every $1,000 of assessed property value. 

Since Washington state limits property tax increases to 1 percent annually, in order for the PCLS system to achieve its 50 cents per 1,000, it must ask voters to approve exceeding the 1 percent cap by “lifting the lid” above and beyond that ceiling. 

“Property values fluctuate widely in unincorporated Pierce County, but the average home value is estimated to be $320,000. The estimated 10 cent increase over current levy funding rates for the average home owner would result in an additional $32.00 per year,” said Mary Getchell, marketing and communications director for PCLS. 

Usage analysis of PCLS demonstrates the Key Center Branch Library has the highest circulation rate per capita, which puts it in line with rates expected in medium-sized urban libraries. 

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